In my recent blog posts, we’ve looked at what a book proposal is and what agents look for. We’ve discussed the overview and how to gain a distance from your memoir, in order to write about it. But the devil is in the detail and some things that seem simple can often be the hardest to write.
The following two sections are often quite short. They may seem innocuous—even easy—but it really pays to take your time with them.
Last time, we discussed how to get a distance in order to write your overview. You need to step back from what you have written, get that “out of body experience.” When writing your author bio, you’ll need to do the same thing.
Allow your bio to paint a broader picture. Focus on who you are beyond your memoir, and what your purpose is in telling your story. Include your achievements, quirks, and oddities. Remember, this is not your memoir, this is you, outside of that memoir. Who are you, apart from and beyond the story told in memoir?
Many authors have a slightly introverted, slightly humble thing going on. If you are stuck, try making a list of why you are fabulous. Have fun with it! Try to find a way to shake yourself out of that charming humility—because that is definitely not the best mode to be in when you’re writing your bio.
This is the people who will really love your book. Obviously! But your publisher or agent is going to want more detail. You need to identify who you think will be your main audience so that your publisher can begin to understand the best way to market your memoir.
It might help to categorize your audience in three layers: primary, secondary, tertiary. The primary layer are those good folk who will read your book because they love your story: friends and family, of course, but also fans of your podcast or readers of your articles. The secondary layer is the people who are affected by the subject of your memoir—be it poverty or wanderlust, gender identity or endurance sports—who have a similar background, issue, or aspiration. The third layer of this expanding circle is the people who are drawn to these kinds of stories generally.
You might want to refer to your comp. titles section here, as they are linked. Ask yourself “Who reads these kinds of books?”
This section is very important because you, as author, are defining who you are talking to. It's incredibly helpful for a publishing house’s marketing department, because that's exactly how they'll be thinking. They’ll be saying “Okay, who's the target audience? How do we reach them?” Finally, it demonstrates your professionalism.
What do people find the hardest when writing a book proposal?
Do you worry that you might not be famous enough to write a memoir?
What if you have no social media following? Should you try to make one fast?
You’re not a celebrity, so how do you get publishers or agents to pay attention to your memoir?
For many writers, the Platform & Marketing section a book proposal fills them with trepidation. In my next blog post, we’ll look at this crucial section of a memoir book proposal.
If you want to learn more and get practical guidance, click here to access an on-demand webinar How to Write a Book Proposal for Your Memoir. This is an in-depth conversation with memoir expert Joanne Spataro, in which Joanne and I discuss the details, the whys and wherefores, as well as the pitfalls of writing a book proposal for your memoir. You’ll be guided through the entire process with useful pointers, tips, and expert advice.